By Silla Brush and Sean J. Miller - 09/08/10 10:54 PM EDT
Wall Street and financial interests are putting their money behind a handful of top-tier Senate Republican candidates as the GOP looks to win back power in the midterm elections.
The industry's contributions, which favored Democrats in recent election cycles, are now helping Republicans vie for control of the Senate.
Between February and June, financial, insurance and real estate interests contributed heavily to five Senate Republican candidates: Ohio's Rob Portman ($820,000), Pennsylvania's Pat Toomey ($728,000), California's Carly Fiorina ($650,000), Illinois' Mark Kirk ($618,000) and Florida's Marco Rubio ($613,000), according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.
Republicans say the shift in donations is another sign of growing concern about the Democrats’ agenda, which has included broad new financial regulations.
“We’re seeing a shift in support towards Republicans because the message of restoring accountability in Washington and serving as a check on the Democrats’ agenda of more spending and higher taxes is clearly resonating,” said Brian Walsh, a spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
Seven of the top 10 recipients of financial industry contributions from February to June were Republicans, the data shows. New York Democratic Sens. Charles Schumer ($1.52 million) and Kirsten Gillibrand ($788,000), and Connecticut Democratic Senate candidate Richard Blumenthal ($707,000) were also among the top 10 recipients.
Rounding out the top 10 were House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (Va., $818,000) and House Minority Leader John Boehner (Ohio, $589,000).
The Center for Responsive Politics first noticed a change in the financial industry's pattern of giving in February, when 17 of the top 25 recipients of contributions were Republicans.
"This was not a blip. There was a dramatic change and it has persisted," said Dave Levinthal, communications director at the center. "We see no indication of it stopping."
The five GOP candidates represent some of the party's best opportunities to pick up seats in the Senate. Democrats have tried to use the candidates’ Wall Street connections against them.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has labeled Portman a “Wall Street cheerleader” and Toomey a “Wall Street wheeler-dealer.” Both men opposed the financial reform bill.
Portman’s campaign declined to address the money he’s receiving from the financial industry, instead noting his grassroots support.
“Rob Portman has received overwhelming support from more than 18,000 individuals with 80 percent of our contributions coming from Ohioans,” Jessica Towhey, a spokeswoman for Portman, said in a statement.
Kirk spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski said the congressman "is humbled by the outpouring of support
he's received and will continue talking about the issues that matter most
in this election — creating jobs and turning our economy around."
Toomey’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
Fiorina has also been criticized by Democrats for being tied to Wall Street. During a recent debate, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) repeatedly accused Fiorina of behaving like a "Wall Street CEO" during her time at the helm of Hewlett-Packard.
Fiorina’s campaign said her donors come from “all walks of life.”
“Barbara Boxer is the only candidate in this race who voted for the taxpayer funded Wall Street bailout after receiving more than $3 million from the financial industry and has a record of repaying her special interests friends for their decades of support,” Andrea Saul, a spokeswoman for the campaign, said in a statement.
“Carly Fiorina, on the other hand, does not owe anything to anyone,” Saul’s statement said.
Rubio's spokesman said he's getting support from the financial industry because he "opposed taxes and regulatory policies that undermine the free enterprise system."
"We welcome the support of people who buy into this agenda," Rubio spokesman Alex Burgos said in a statement.